It's (un)official: The festival season has started. My calendar of birding festivals shows a huge increase in events after the first weekend of April.
If you're going to fly to a birding event soon, consider these tips for airplane travel. I've learned, by flying once or twice a month for three or so years, that a little preparation goes a long way toward arriving at my destination in a good mood -- despite whatever challenges arise in the airport or on the plane.
Atchafalaya Experience field trip,
American Birding Association convention in April 2007
• ear plugs for the flight(s) and your hotel room
• eye drops
• snacks: nuts, dried fruit and/or fresh veggies, granola bars, water (purchased after the security checkpoint)
• reading material (including WildBird! I had to say it.)
• note pads and digital camera
Put these items in your carry-on luggage. I prefer to use a backpack large enough to hold my laptop, which slips into a neoprene case for protection. (I'm also one of those dorks who wears a backpack during the festivals' field trips.)
Wear your heaviest shoes onto the plane if you’re taking only carry-on luggage.
Bring an empty duffel for laundry, purchases and printed materials. You never know what treasures you'll find in a festival's vendor area or at a local store.
Keep toiletries, an umbrella and a power strip (for your laptop, cell phone charger and digital camera battery charger) in your suitcase so that you don’t forget them.
Gracefully accept that the airline will not provide free, bountiful food that you like. That's why you bring small snacks in your carry-on.
Speaking of food: Will your hotel room include a mini refrigerator? (That's my upmost criteria.) After arriving at your destination and leaving the airport, look for a grocery store.
Purchase breakfast items, snacks and bottled water so that you can fill your gullet before or while riding that 5 a.m. bus to your first destination during a day-long field trip. With some snacks and water in your backpack, you don't need to wait for lunch to keep up your blood sugar.
If you have lower expectations about airplane travel, then you can relax and deal more calmly with delayed or cancelled flights. They're just part of the adventure!